Putin speaks with EU leaders
Russian President Vladimir Putin held a phone call on Saturday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. Blaming Ukraine for freezing peace talks, Putin assured his counterparts that Moscow remained ready to negotiate an end to the ongoing conflict, and condemned the West for flooding the neighboring country with weapons.
According to a readout of the call published by the Kremlin, Putin outlined the latest developments in Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and described the return of normal life to Mariupol and other cities recently taken from Ukrainian forces.
Putin confirmed that Russia was open to a negotiated peace deal and was ready to export fertilizer and other agricultural products, but that this would require the lifting of some Western-imposed sanctions. He also said that Russia would ensure that the export of grain could take place from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. Until recently, such exports had been impossible due to Ukraine’s mining of the sea, according to Moscow. However, the Russian Navy has opened two corridors for civilian vessels, one in the Black Sea and another through the Azov Sea.
A readout of Saturday’s call from the German side said that both Scholz and Macron urged Putin to declare an immediate armistice and withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. Both leaders remarked positively on Putin’s commitment to treat captured Ukrainian combatants “in accordance with international humanitarian law,” and to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross unrestricted access.
While both Scholz and Macron have condemned Russia over its military operation in Ukraine and supported EU sanctions on Moscow, the two leaders have kept in direct communication with their Russian counterpart. Conversely, a number of other Western politicians have ruled out speaking to Putin. Polish Prime Minister Matteusz Morawiecki compared the Russian president to Adolf Hitler and castigated Macron for speaking to him, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson likened Putin to a “crocodile” and dismissed peace talks.
However, while Scholz and Macron have spoken regularly to Putin since February, both leaders have donated weapons and other military aid to Kiev, and Macron has denied urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to give up some territory in exchange for a deal with Russia, as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested this week that Kiev should consider.
Putin addressed the issue of the West’s military support for Kiev on Saturday, telling Scholz and Macron that the “pumping” of arms into Ukraine “risks further destabilization of the situation and aggravation of the humanitarian crisis.”
At the end of the 80-minute call, all three leaders agreed to stay in contact.